Britain’s Lizzie Deignan has ridden to a remarkable landmark victory in the inaugural Paris Roubaix Femmes as rain, mud and crashes made it a memorable debut for the world’s best female riders over the infamous ‘Hell of the North’ cobbled course.
The former world champion produced a dominant ride over the 115.6km course, riding solo for over 80 kilometres and holding off a powerful late surge by Dutch great Marianne Vos to win by one minute and 17 seconds in Saturday’s historic edition.
It took such an amazing effort that the British rider’s hands were left with blood on them by the time she crossed the line in the famous Roubaix velodrome.
“I just feel so incredibly proud. Women’s cycling is at a turning point and it’s part of history,” said an overjoyed Deignan.
“It proves there’s an appetite for women’s cycling and the athletes here can do one of the hardest races in the world. I’m so proud I can say I’m the first ever winner.”
“After three circuits around Denain, Trek Segafredo rider Deignan established a small lead over the pack just before the first of 17 cobbled sections, but revealed that her solo effort had not been planned.
“I needed to be at the fornt in the first cobble section to protect my leaders – actually, today, I was kind of the third rider. I looked behind after the first cobbles and I thought at least if I’m in the front they have to chase me, so I just kept going!”
With riders struggling to organise a concerted chase, many of them slithering over on the greasy cobbles, the 32-year-old powered into a commanding lead.
With 30km remaining, the Trek-Segafredo rider held a lead of two minutes 30 seconds over a group including Vos (Jumbo Visma), teammate Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Germany’s Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT).
Deignan, handling the bone-shaking “pave” cobblestones with aplomb, maintained her advantage as several fancied riders, including European champion Ellen van Dijk, crashed heavily.
Vos finally put the hammer down to try and catch Deignan, slicing into the lead as she powered through the Carrefour de L’Arbre cobbled section.
Vos closed the gap to 1:18 as Deignan began the final 10km, but Deignan proved unshakeable out front as the velodrome finish approached.
Deignan was so far ahead that the finale was effectively a lap of honour as the Yorkshire rider wrote her name into the cycling history books.
Deignan’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini was third with the leading Australian being Team BikeExchange’s Sarah Roy, who was 23rd, six minutes and 20 seconds behind the winner.
Organisers ASO, who also own the Tour de France, added a women’s version of the 125-year-old Paris Roubaix last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant they had to wait another year to ride the race with the nickname ‘Hell of the North’.
The debut for the Paris Roubaix Femmes race and for a women’s Tour de France next year are seen as steps forward in the long battle for gender equality in professional cycling, although there remains a long way to go.
While Sunday’s men’s race over a longer distance boasts a total prize pot of 91,000 euros ($A145,000), the women’s race has only 7,505 euros ($A12,000) with Deignan receiving 1,535 euros ($A2,500) – about one-twentieth of what the winner of Sunday’s men’s race will take home.
Source by 7news.com.au